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Star Trek's Finest Federation Starships

In the hopes that the design of the new USS Discovery will be drastically improved, we look at some of the best starships 'Star Trek' has given us so far.

The newest incarnation of Star Trek is, apparently, about to start filming anytime now. Called Star Trek: Discovery, little is known about the show. However, a teaser trailer from the San Diego Comic-Con last year showed footage of the new starship emerging from space dock and fans were understandably outraged. The angular abomination looked amateur and unworthy of being in the greatest sci-fi franchise of all time. Based on an unused Ralph McQuarrie concept for the USS Enterprise from the unmade movie Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, it almost appears to be a marriage of Starfleet and Klingon design. Fans flocked to comment online and the general consensus was that everyone hoped this was simply a first draft and the ship would be vastly improved before the new series aired.

So instead, here are some of Starfleet's most memorable interstellar incarnations. Note, this does not include any craft from the Kelvin Timeline, 'cause that's just rubbish.

USS Enterprise (NX-01)

Type: Warp 5 prototype/long range cruiser

Class: Naval Experimental (NX)

As seen in: Star Trek: Enterprise

In service from: 2151

Status: Retired

Notes: A total of nine Starfleet ships have carried the name Enterprise, from NX to Constitution class, Sovereign and Odyssey class, and ultimately ending up with Universe class commissioned in the 26th century and... most of them were gorgeous. However, it all started with the NX-01 warp 5 prototype, under the command of Captain Archer. What made this ship, her crew, and the series Enterprise stand out was their inability to depend on technology, simply because much of it didn't exist yet. The NX-01 didn't even have shields. Instead she was equipped with variable phased-polarized graviton-emitting hull plating. When she launched it had no personnel transporters, she carried nuclear torpedoes, and when the engines broke down, the chief engineer would sometimes get covered in oil. There was no wave-a-tool-with-a-bright-light-at-the-end nonsense that began to dominate in the 24th century-set series. 

USS Ares (NCC-1650)

Type: Battle Cruiser

Class: Ares Class prototype

As seen in: Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar

In service from: 2240

Status: Decommissioned

Notes: Without a doubt this deserves a mention, not only because the ship itself is pretty cool, but also because Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar has had such a hard time of late. In fact, only very recently CBS, Paramount, and the production team behind the crowd-funded fan film finally reached an agreement over the copyright issues. It's just a shame that the television studios can't work together to give the fans what they want, which is more Star Trek

During the first two years of the Four Years War, Starfleet was experiencing near constant defeat at the hands of the Imperial Klingon Navy's D-6 battle cruiser, so the design and production of Starfleet's first ever dedicated warship, the Ares-class, began. Following a successful proof of concept at the battle of Cygnus III, the Constitution-class heavy cruiser was developed with the first two ships being the USS Constitution NCC 1700 and the UUS Enterprise NCC 1701. 

USS Entente (NCC 2120)

Type: Heavy Battle Cruiser

Class: Dreadnought Class

As seen in: Mentioned in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Fleet Technical Manual

In service from: 2259

Status: Retired

Notes: The Dreadnought is a seldom seen class of starship, but her unusual, heavy-duty, three-warp nacelle design makes it worthy of an inclusion. Not a great deal has been written about this ship and the Entente herself was probably the best known of the Dreadnought class starships, which equates to basically a brief mention in Star Trek lore.

It could even be argued that the re-fitted USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) under the command of Admiral William Riker from the final, epic two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode All Good Things was now Dreadnought class, especially when you also remember that colossal phaser cannon fitted under the saucer section. 

There were variations on the distinct Dreadnought design, the USS Niagara (NCC-58800), for instance, had her third nacelle fitted underneath the primary hull and earlier variations had the shuttle bay at the forward end of the primary hull, above the deflector dish. 

USS Reliant (NCC 1864)

Type: Medium Range Destroyer

Class: Miranda Class

As seen in: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

In service from: 2266

Status: Destroyed

Notes: Back in 1982, following Star Trek: The Motion Picture, this was the first time we'd really got a good look at another Federation starship that wasn't either a) the Enterprise or b) Constitution class. It's instantly recognizable as a Starfleet ship and yet it has subtle design differences. Moreover, not only did Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan save the franchise, but it's also the best science fiction movie ever made. 

Sadly, the Reliant was destroyed in 2285 in the Mutara Nebula after it had been commandeered by the 20th century genetically engineered criminal Khan Noonien Singh. The Genesis Device was detonated from inside the ship causing complete destruction.

USS Lynx (NCC-1650)

Type: Timeship prototype

Class: Lynx Class, a modification of the Monoceros Class scoutship

As seen in: Official Starfleet blueprints from 1991 and just one or two fansites online, possibly due its highly classified nature

In service from: 2286

Status: Theoretically still operational

Notes: Not only is this starship unconventional in its design and thus have an extremely cool appearance, but it's also not very well known at all, even among the hardcore Star Trek fanbase. Way back in the early 90s, long before things like the internet, Starfleet blueprints were only available to buy through sci-fi magazines like Starlog and even OMNI. However, they were still considered canon since they came from official sources. 

The USS Lynx achieves retrograde time travel through the precise application of the "cold start" formulation of the primary warp engine. Timeslip occurs at a constant velocity of warp 1.5 and can be maintained indefinitely. Cold start of warp drives is dangerous using normal warp configurations because of inadequate heat dissipation properties of primary and secondary intercoolers away from the matter/antimatter intermix chamber. The USS Lynx is outfitted with intercoolers rated 300 percent over standard dissipation rates to cope with increased heat buildup.

She was equipped with a cloaking device for use when in orbit around inhabited planets during a different time period (some 25 years before the Treaty of Algeron). As with all authorized Federation time travel missions, the crew of the USS Lynx operated on a very strict set of orders, including the unconditional restriction of all contact with life forms and even self-destruct if the ship became stranded for any reason in a time period other than its own.

USS Stargazer (NCC 2893)

Type: Long Range Cruiser

Class: Constellation Class

As seen in: Star Trek: The Next Generation "The Battle" (Season 1, Episode 8), Pocket Books Star Trek: Stargazer series and novels Honor BladeThe Valiant and The Buried Age

In service from: 2329

Status: Recovered

Notes: A vastly underrated Federation starship, the Stargazer not only looks awesome (four warp engines and four forward-facing torpedo bays) but it still retains a noticeable amount of styling from the late 23rd century, much like the USS Reliant. Add to which of course it became Jean-Luc Picard's first command.

History was made during the Battle of Maxia in 2355, when the Stargazer came under attack from an unknown alien vessel, later determined to be of Ferengi origin. Suffering significant damage, including loss of shields and crew casualties including Captain Manning, Lieutenant Commander Picard took command. In a desperate struggle to survive and with only warp drive and minimal weapons left functioning, Picard accelerated at warp speed directly towards the Ferengi ship, dropping out of warp just a second later. Because the distance travelled was so small, for an instant, the Stargazer appeared to be in two places at once. The Ferengi fired at the wrong target, giving time for Picard to launch a full barrage of photon torpedoes, destroying the enemy ship. This improvised battle tactic has since become known as the Picard Maneuver.

USS Pegasus (NCC-53847)

Type: Light Cruiser, refitted as prototype for extended experimentation

Class: Oberth Class

As seen in: Star Trek: The Next Generation "The Pegasus" (Season 7, Episode 12) and novel A Time to Love

In service from: 2358

Status: Wrecked

Notes: From the outside the Pegasus looks identical to the USS Grissom, destroyed by Klingon attack while in orbit around the Genesis Planet in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. This stands to reason since they were both Oberth class medium cruisers. However, that's where the similarities end. The Pegasus became a controversial subject, deemed highly classified and ultimately shrouded in cloak and dagger-style mystery.

In 2358, the Pegasus was commanded by Captain Erik Pressman, and included Ensign William T. Riker on his first assignment out of the Academy. In that year, the Pegasus was assigned to conduct a test of a phasing cloaking device, in direct violation of the Treaty of Algeron. During the test, an explosion occurred in main engineering, resulting in heavy casualties. Several members of the crew, including first officer Ron Moore and the chief engineer, mutinied in an attempt to shut down the illegal test. Pressman, Riker, and seven other crew members fled the ship in an escape pod. Not long after departing, they witnessed a large explosion in space. No wreckage was found, and the vessel was believed to have been destroyed by a warp core breach. In fact, the Pegasus was not destroyed but rather drifted in phased-cloak form until it re-materialized inside asteroid gamma 601, half of it in solid rock, in the Devolin system.

USS Excalibur (NCC-26517)

Type: Heavy Cruiser

Class: Ambassador Class

As seen in: Mentioned in Star Trek: The Next Generation "The Measure Of A Man" (Season 2, Episode 9) and Star Trek: Voyager "Survival Instinct" (Season 6, Episode 2) and numerous novels, including Star Trek: New Frontier, EnigmaReunion and Dark Allies

In service from: 2362

Status: Destroyed

Notes: The USS Excalibur is an Ambassador class vessel, arguably the best looking of all Federation starships, hence it's inclusion in this list. The design represents the middle ground between the styles of 23rd and 24th century Starfleet ships, with visible influences from both periods, in fact it was intermediate in size between the Excelsior-class and the Galaxy-class.

Under Captain Al Smutko, the Excalibur survived an attack by the Borg, but several members of the crew were assimilated in the encounter. Following the vessel's refit in 2373, command was given to Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and she was involved in a significant number of key Starfleet operations. She was destroyed in 2376 by a Narobian virus planted in the ship's computer core during the Double Helix crisis. 

The USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-C) was another Ambassador class starship. Under the command of Captain Rachel Garrett, the Enterprise was destroyed defending a Klingon outpost on Narendra III from Romulan attack. The brave actions of the crew led to peace between the Klingon Empire and United Federation of Planets. 

USS Hood (NCC-2541)

Type: Heavy Cruiser

Class: Excelsior Class

As seen in: She appears in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, including Encounter at Far Point (Season 1, Episode 1), Tin Man (Season 3, Episode 20) and is mentioned in many others. She is also mentioned in numerous novels including Imzadi, Demons of Air and Darkness, A Time to Heal, Articles of the Federation and A Singular Destiny

In service from: 2361

Status: Active

Notes: Almost as well known through Starfleet as the name Enterprise, Hood also comes from excellent pedigree. Under the command of Captain Robert DeSoto, a man with a legendary reputation equal only to Captain Jean Luc Picard, the USS Hood was the sole surviving vessel of the Battle of Wolf 359 in 2367, as referenced in Star Trek: The Next Generation "The Drumhead" (Season 4, Episode 21). She also survived the Dominion War and the Borg invasion of 2381. 

There's a little confusion in Trek lore over the correct registry number for the USS Hood. However, it's been confirmed as NCC-2541, therefore making her a close contemporary sister ship of the USS Repulse NCC-2544, further establishing a Starfleet practice that when a ship was named for a historical counterpart they are sometimes paired in the same class with other contemporary historical counterparts. The historic HMS Hood and HMS Repulse were contemporary British battle cruisers who shared a similar fate in World War II. Other examples include the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) and the USS Lexington (NCC-1709) as well as the USS Monitor (NCC-61826) and the USS Merrimac (NCC-61827).

USS Defiant (NX-74205)

Type: Escort Cruiser

Class: Naval Experimental (NX)

As seen in: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: First Contact

In service from: 2370

Status: Destroyed

Notes: Development on the Defiant began in response to the Borg threat to the Federation. Although officially classified as an escort vessel, the Defiant was nothing less than Starfleet's first design of warship, designed to combat the Borg. She featured minimal equipment for scientific research and was not designed to accommodate families. 

The Defiant did not perform well in its initial trial runs. It was overpowered and over-gunned for a ship of its size—so much so that the Defiant nearly shook itself apart when the engines were tested at full power. These design flaws, combined with the Borg threat becoming less urgent, led Starfleet to abandon the project and place the prototype in storage.

After the USS Odyssey was destroyed in late 2370, Commander Benjamin Sisko, who served on the team that designed the Defiant, requested that the vessel be pulled out of storage and assigned to Deep Space 9 to counter the new threat of the Dominion. After many years of extremely active service, including the Battle of Sector 001, the USS Defiant was destroyed at the Second Battle of Chin'toka.

A very special thanks goes to cygnus-x1.net, also memory-beta.wikia.com.

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